My initial reaction to the game was not a pleasant one. I felt that the officials influenced it to such a degree that the Spurs did not stand a chance. I thought the Thunder got away with fouls that allowed them to separate themselves from the Spurs early in the game. Without them, their runs would not have created those insurmountable leads. There were those two bogus offensive fouls called on Tiago that robbed the Spurs of two possessions. There were many touch fouls that were called on the Spurs that either saved a Thunder possession or gave them free throws. There were also many plays in which the Spurs endured excessive contact yet did not receive the call. I estimated the officials' first half impact at a negative14 points for the Spurs. While all this was not completely imagined, it's quite possible that I'm one of the most biased humans on the planet. And so, objectively, I'll admit that the officials were not the sole reason the Spurs lost 82 to 102 in OKC.
The Thunder did what they had to do to avoid a sweep. Oklahoma City came out as aggressive as possible with their crowd roaring behind them. Our team began the game lackadaisically. THIS WAS DECISIVE. Every Spurs fan understood that the Thunder were going to come out swinging. It was critical that the Spurs responded early. In this kind of game the first four minutes were as important as the last four minutes. If the team up 2-0 can keep pace despite the energy that the desperate team inevitably brings, the 2-0 team will win the game. If the 2-0 team comes out flat, the previously decimated team with gain all of their confidence back. They will steal the momentum and use it to fuel the rest of their game plan.
Gregg Popovich called a timeout with 9:11 remaining in the first quarter. Two minutes and forty-nine seconds into Game 3, the Spurs were 0-3 from the field and had committed 4 turnovers. The Thunder were up 8-0 while committing zero turnovers. That was the game. One team showed up and the other did not. It was over within three minutes and we all knew it.
However, none of us wanted to wave the white flag that early in the game. And so we watched. It was painful, but we held onto the hope that the Spurs would win. Who can blame us? We've become accustomed to the type of magic that can make a bad half disappear.
Unfortunately, the bad half turned into a bad third quarter. It wasn't awful; it was simply insurmountable. On the road, a team must play significantly better to withstand the officiating. Instead, the Spurs succumbed to it. It was depressingly difficult to watch.
There will not be three stars tonight. Everyone was forgettable. Even Stephen Jackson was not great and I'm a Stephen Jackson guy. When the game was obviously slipping away, he waited until it was too late to start shooting. We needed him early and often and instead he gave us late and intermittent. He was on fire, as far as I could tell. He should have shot until his hand burned off. We needed a dollar and he threw a dime at our face.
The Spurs lost by 20 points and Stephen Jackson was 6 for 7 from the field, 4-5 from 3 point land scoring 16 points. What? How is that possible? We needed the old, crazy Jackson to snap the Spurs out of it. Instead, we got this weird, sane version that held our hand as he slowly walked us into defeat. Someone snap him out of it.
By the way, Tim made 5 of 15 from the field and only had 2 rebounds. What was that? I blame Pop. For some reason he decided to force-feed Tim after the 1st quarter offense sputtered. That was a mistake. He should have continued to run the motion offense that has destroyed every opponent the Spurs have faced. I thought that the unsuccessful 4-Down offense served to give the Thunder even more confidence. Tim is not a 4-down player anymore. He thrives on the open lanes and shots that the motion offense creates.
Besides, it’s obvious that the officials are not going to give him a call at this point in his career. We just watched it. Apparently any scrub can lean on him, reach, hit his arm with his left hand as he pushes underneath with his right hand without a call. It’s time to stop posting him up. It’s actually not Tim’s age. It’s the current era of the NBA. You can’t hand check a guy like Westbrook 34 feet away from the basket, but you can place your entire body weight on a guy in the paint. That’s fair, apparently. Fine, motion it is. That’s the Spurs’ best offense anyway.
Also destroying our Game 3 viewing pleasure was Tony Parker. He was hesitant. He played as if he was expecting the Thunder to clamp down on him. He passed it before he was trapped. He never made the Thunder commit, which put the rest of the Spurs’ offense in a difficult position. He acted as if he was saving himself. He rarely put his head down and took it to the rim. He mostly accepted the defensive pressure and passed it to guys like Matt Bonner.
What is Matt Bonner doing out there? We would be better off playing 5 on 4. At least that way our players would understand the situation. Every time he is in the game the opposition goes on an offensive rebounding spree. It’s unbelievable. If he’s the king of the regular season +/- stat, he would be god of the playoff +/- opponent offensive rebounding stat. As much as I hate DeJuan Blair, it’s time to mix it up. And by mix it up, I mean throw Bonner underneath the bench.
Manu played poorly, also. Ginobili had 4 turnovers. The way to judge Manu’s game is simple. Just look at his turnover to assist+points ratio. 4:9 means he had an awful game. You want something closer to 1.25:10. That’s a good Manu game. Tonight was awful all-around. The Spurs committed 21 turnovers and the Thunder scored 20 points off of them. Obviously, it’s not a winning recipe for the Spurs.
Okay, I’m tired. There’s only so many ways I can say that we lost and they won. Our guys played poorly and theirs played like it was their most important game of the season. It was for them and it wasn’t for us. Game 4 is all that matters.
So, what should the Spurs change next game? Nothing, really. We are better than they are. We just need more of what brought us to this point. We need aggression. We need to attack the paint. I thought the Spurs played Game 3 like they played the first half of Game 1. The Spurs played a passive game. They allowed the Thunder to cheat.
You can never allow your opponent to cheat. Cheaters always win if you allow them to; therefore, cheaters must be punished. This type of cheater will be punished by relentless penetration. The Thunder defense is designed to make the early kick-out seem like the best opportunity. The Thunder defense is playing for the kick-out. The Spurs were successful in the second half of Game 1 because they took the ball to the rim. With the Thunder playing the passing lanes, our stars have to take the ball all the way to the rim in order to make the Thunder defense commit. Once at the rim, the layups or kick-outs will be available. But the Spurs cannot drive halfway and expect winning results.
As we all know, this Spurs team is resilient. I believe that this team is simply better than the Thunder. If the Spurs’ offense can match the aggression of the OKC defense in Game 4, it’s game over. I was nervous about Game 3; I’m confident about Game 4. Go Spurs.